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Campaign on Women's Reservation,
Special Attention to Muslim and Tribal Women,
Preparation for National Conference

- AIPWA National Council Meet Highlights

The AIPWA National Council meeting in Guwahati on 6-7 January made an overall review of the changed political situation in the country as well as the organisation's experience of the last 3 years since its formation.

On the question of the bill for the reservation for women in parliament and assemblies, which was quietly shelved in the joint select committee, the council felt that even though it had been opposed by the male MPs from all parties right from the BJP to the JD, the left parties too had not made it a major issue except for some formal opposition outside. They are now trapped themselves into accepting that the bill be pushed for debate and amendment through a joint select committee which is headed by none other than the CPI MP, Gita Mukherjee.

It was decided in the meeting that a 10000-strong women's march to the parliament would be organised in Delhi by AIPWA during the budget session. Preceding the march, a massive signature campaign will be conducted all over the country and about one and a half lakh signatures will be submitted to the Speaker.

The leaders of the AIPWA unit of Assam will meet the Union Home Minister demanding speedy political solution to the crisis prevailing in Assam. In the beginning of January, Mrs.Golapi Basumatary, General Secretary of the Bodo Women's Justice Forum and an AIPWA functionary was killed in cold blood in an attack by the BLT. The policy of divide and rule being adopted by the government to tackle the nationality struggle coupled with the armed repression to counter militants has resulted in a reign of terror where women and minor girls are being raped and molested by the armymen and paramilitary forces who have camped in almost all the sensitive parts of the state. The killing of Golapi was shocking as she was a young, energetic and popular mass leader of the Bodo women and a council member of AIPWA. The demand for a political solution to the Bodo problem is still being evaded by the state. On January 8, a dharna was staged by AIPWA in front of the Janata Bhavan in Guwahati demanding judicial inquiry into the incident and immediate arrest of the killers.

The second AIPWA National Conference would be held in Lucknow in the first week of April. The conference venue has been chosen in UP because it is in UP that the BJP is trying to stage a comeback through an alliance with BSP. The BJP's gameplan of capturing power at the centre is obviously going to be implemented with renewed assertion in the Hindi heartland, UP being its main battleground. The BSP might play into the hands of BJP in order to secure the coveted position of chief minister. In the increased social tension amidst the political flux, it is the most oppressed section, the dalit women, who will suffer the most. The raised aspirations of the dalits resulting from the BSP occupying the chief minister's position, that too a woman chief minister, is going to lead to greater assertion on their part which will not go well with either the BJP's mass base or with the social base of Mulayam. Distancing of the Muslims from the alliance and the BJP's dominating presence is also going to lead to increased insecurity for the Muslims. It is in this backdrop that the national conference of AIPWA is going to be held.

AIPWA conference will bring into national focus the issue of rape as a weapon of political and social vendetta. The Muzaffarnagar rape case, following inquiry report of the CBI as well as the ruling of the Allahabad High Court treating rape at par with murder, will be one of the important cases to be highlighted and also the BJP's sordid role in grabbing the lion's share of the compensation while the actual victims run from pillar to post seeking rehabilitation. The government's inaction in punishing the guilty and the sinister silence of Mayawati just because the rape victims were from the higher caste, will be some of the questions to be raised. The conference will also discuss the role of autonomous institutions for women like the National Women's Commission, the wishy-washy character of the National Policy for Women and the question of formation of a separate ministry for women's welfare. Some of the other important issues that will come up for discussion are steps to qualitatively raise political participation of women and reservation for women in jobs in the private sector and the service sector. AIPWA's policies on organising tribal and Muslim women will also be discussed after a serious review of the past policies to be placed in the political organisational report. The delegates to the conference will be elected from among members of AIPWA through the district conferences and general body meetings to be held in the months of January and February. The main theme of the conference will centre around the increasing onslaughts on women and their struggle for empowerment. Guests and observers from all over the country numbering around 50, sister organisations and the organisations of Muslim and tribal women will be some of the invitees to the conference. A new phase of struggle will begin after reviewing our past experiences and important policy decisions sharpening our strategy will be taken.

A meeting of the tribal women's organisations of Assam, All Tiwa Women's Association, Dimasa Women's Society, KNCA, Mishing Women's Organisation and TMMK was held on January 7 and it was decided that they will conduct surveys to identify the problems of their women and chalk out a consolidated programme and plan of action for struggle. The non-Karbi women in Karbi Anglong are also being organised under the AIPWA banner. A cadre meeting of women from All Assam Progressive Women's Association was also held with a discussion on how a strong cadre force can be the basis of a strong organisation. Several policy matters relating to struggles of women in Assam, relationship with left women's organisations, tackling issues of increasing army repression on women and growing militancy were discussed. The role of Assam State Women's Commission was also discussed in which the president of our Assam unit has been nominated a member.

-Kumudini Pati

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